This Time Really is Different

The year was 1930.  The greatest depression in US history closed around the nation like a dark shadow.  Congress was desperate to do something that put the nation to work again.  What could do it?  Rep. Willis Hawley (R-OR) and Sen. Reed Smoot (R-UT) had a plan – close down imports and make Americans buy products made in America.  Their plan, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, raised import taxes on over 20,000 items to about the highest level they had ever been.  Nations around the world responded with their own tariffs, starting with Canada, slashing all trade in and out of the US in half.  Nearly everyone agrees that this made the Great Depression much worse everywhere.

Flash forward to 2013.  Japan returns the Liberal Democratic Party to power on the promise to put the nation to work again.  Their plan?  Not to shut down trade, but to increase it – goosing exports by lowering the value of their currency and making their stuff cheaper.

The situations and the plans are very similar, but the underlying assumption is completely different.  The world has passed from Nationalism to Globalism as the basic driving force.  And that difference is worth thinking through.

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